The Sneeze

What to do when your child has eczema

September 21, 2021

By: Gital K Patel, MD

What is eczema?

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a skin disorder that causes itchy, scaly, dry and inflamed skin. It can affect infants, children, and adults and seems to run in families. 

People with eczema usually develop  symptoms in childhood, before the age of five. Intense itching of the skin, patches of inflamed skin, small bumps, and dry scaly skin are common. Scratching can further inflame the skin and worsen the itching. 

Atopic dermatitis is long lasting (chronic) and tends to flare periodically. It may be accompanied by asthma or hay fever.


What causes eczema?

Although the cause of eczema is not completely understood, genetics and family history appear to play a strong role. People with a family history of eczema are at increased risk of developing the condition. People with eczema can have a genetic abnormality in the outermost layer of the skin, called the epidermis. The epidermis is the first line of defense between the body and the environment. When the epidermis is intact, it keeps environmental irritants, allergens, and microbes from entering the body and prevents the skin from losing too much water. In people with eczema, this barrier is compromised making it more permeable than it should be.

Interestingly, children with eczema infrequently have food allergies as a trigger. If you think your child might have a food allergy, you should consult an allergy specialist for evaluation.


How do you treat eczema?

In general, avoidance of the following can help impede eczema symptoms:

-Cold or dry environments

-Sweating

-Emotional stress or anxiety

-Rapid temperature changes

-Exposure to certain chemicals or irritants including soaps and detergents, perfumes and cosmetics, wool or synthetic fibers, dust, sand, and cigarette smoke

 

While there are treatments that can relieve the symptoms of eczema, there is, however, no cure. Most children with eczema do grow out of it by the time they become adults. The treatments for eczema include:

-Moisturizing creams or ointments. These products help keep your skin moisturized. It is recommended to put it on right after a bath or shower. 

-Steroid creams and ointments. These can help with itching and swelling. In some cases, steroid pills can be prescribed

-Antihistamine pills. Some people with eczema find that antihistamines relieve itching.


When should you see a doctor?

See a doctor if you or your child:

-The condition is affecting sleep and daily activities

-Has a skin infection (red streaks, pus, yellow scabs)

-Symptoms persist despite home remedies


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